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Cytogenetic effects of formaldehyde exposure in students of mortuary science.

Suruda AJ; Schulte PA; Boeniger M; Hayes RB; Livingston GK; Steenland K; Stewart P; Herrick RF; Douthit D; Fingerhut MA
Proceedings of the 9th international symposium on epidemiology in occupational health. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 94-112, 1994 Jan; :413-417
A group of 29 students of mortuary science starting a course in embalming were studied to determine the effect of low level exposure to formaldehyde (50000) on oral, nasal, and lymphocyte biological markers. Their average age was 23.6 years, seven were women, and five were current smokers. Each student completed a questionnaire concerning occupational activity, past embalming experience, smoking, diet, medication, and X-ray exposure. Swabs were taken of the nose and mouth and blood samples were taken. The study period lasted 85 days, during which time the subjects performed an average of 6.9 embalmings and had average cumulative formaldehyde exposures of 14.9 parts per million hours (ppm-hr). The average air concentration during embalming was 1.4ppm. Calculated as an 8 hour time weighted average (TWA), the formaldehyde exposures were 0.35ppm on days when embalmings were done. Peak short term exposures were from 3 to 9 times the TWA levels. A 12-fold increase in micronucleus frequency was noted for epithelial cells from the buccal area of the mouth during the study period. Nasal epithelial micronuclei increased 22%. The frequency of micronucleated lymphocytes increased 28% in blood cells while sister chromatid exchanges decreased 7.5%. In the 22 men, a dose response relationship was noted between cumulative exposure to formaldehyde and increases in buccal micronuclei. The authors conclude that low level formaldehyde was associated with cytogenetic changes in epithelial cells of the mouth and in blood lymphocytes. The changes in oral and nasal epithelial cells and peripheral blood cells indicate that DNA alteration has occurred. The cytogenetic effects could be seen in tissues distant from the area of initial contact. The authors suggest that these changes may serve as biological indicators of formaldehyde exposure.
NIOSH-Author; Laboratory-workers; Blood-cells; Biological-monitoring; Cytotoxic-effects; Genotoxic-effects; DNA-damage; Chromosome-disorders; Chromosome-damage
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Proceedings of the 9th international symposium on epidemiology in occupational health
Page last reviewed: October 5, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division